Father of Modern Silver
LiveAuctioinTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo courtesy of Doyle Galleries.
Think of Georg Jensen as the father of modern silver. The renowned Danish silversmith actually started out as a sculptor but turned to silver when he couldn’t make a go of it.
Jensen pursued his love of sculpting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts graduating in 1892. His clay sculpture was popular but feeding his family proved impossible as a fine artist.
So Jensen switched to the decorative arts and experimented with gold and silver. In his early years he worked in the same cutlery as his father, a knife grinder, under the respected Mogens Ballin. There Jensen learned silversmithing and how to create finely crafted and affordable decorative products.
In 1904, he opened his own workshop in Copenhagen and hired talented designers to help him. He gave those designers lots of room to experiment and use their own creative ideas. He also teamed up with outside artists and designers. Jensen wasn’t insecure about safeguarding his artistic vision.
He ended up bringing a vision to silver design that elevated it into a class all its own.
Johan Rohde, whose work was similar to Jensen’s, created the Acorn series, the first flatware set Jensen manufactured. Allan Scharf’s famous fish bowl platter can be seen today in museums.
The sculptor’s masterful hand was clearly visible in Jensen’s floral motifs and grapes. He didn’t follow traditional party lines in design. His art deco jewelry tended to lack fancy decoration and precious stones and could be sold affordably to the rising middle class.
Think of silver as the stainless steel of its day. It wasn’t the precious metal it is now and most families could afford at least one piece. It was also an inexpensive alternative to gold.
Jensen used semi-precious stones like moonstone, lapis, opal and amber. He also didn’t load up his silver with lots of stones. The ones he chose accented rather than overpowered his pieces. Jensen incorporated his firm in 1916 as Georg Jensen’s Silversmith.
Hollowware is a general term used for functional silverware that isn’t flatware. The Jensen Company created over 1200 hollowware designed items. Many of the pieces are hand-hammered giving off a soft reflection of light which Jensen compared to moonlight.
“Silver has this lovely glow of moonlight,” he said. “Something of the light of a Danish summer night.” These hand-hammered pieces just can’t be reproduced on an assembly line.
Jensen died in 1935 and lived long enough to see his work go international. His son continued the business. The distinctive style is still evident in work created by the firm today.
Georg Jensen’s hallmark is high quality workmanship, sculptural styling, clean lines, and timelessness.
Silver is an ideal arena for collectors. The variety and quantity of high quality pieces is endless. The price ranges are too. A good eye and a book on silver hallmarks is all any enthusiast needs to get started.
On Sept 28, Doyle Galleries, New York, featured a selection of silver in its Doyle + Design auction. Included in the sale were four Georg Jensen lots. Here are some current values.
Johan Rohde Compote; designed circa 1930; for Jensen; marked 925.S Georg Jenson Denmark Sterling; numbered 17B; inscribed CVB 1936; 5 1/8 inches high; $1,625.
Georg Jensen Goblets; 2; grapevine pattern; each marked 925.S GJ Denmark Sterling; numbered 296A; 3 7/8 inches high; $3,438.
Georg Jensen Coffee Service; blossom pattern; coffee pot, creamer, covered sugar, tray; sterling silver; all marked and numbered; designed circa 1908; $5,938.
Georg Jensen Candelabrum; grapevine pattern; five-light; marked Georg Jensen Sterling; and numbered 383A; designed 1920; 10 ½ inches high; $27,500.